Tuesday, July 17, 2012
Tuesday, July 10, 2012
Thursday, March 15, 2012
Alright, from Germany we take a sharp turn South and direct our attention to the largest producer of wine in the world, ITALY! Sharpen your pencils and put your study caps on...it’s time to memorize some new DOCG zones that were approved in 2011.
Veneto: Montello Rosso, Friularo di Bagnoli, Colli di Conegliano
Toscana: Rosso della Val di Cornia, Suvereto, Montecucco Sangiovese, Elba Aleatico Passito
Puglia: Castel del Monte Bombino Nero, Castel del Monte Nero di Troia, Castel del Monte Rosso Riserva, Tavoliere delle Puglia
Lazio: Frascati Superiore, Cannellino di Frascati
Emilia-Romagna: Colli Bolognesi Classico Pignoletto
Campania: Aglianico del Taburno
In Asti DOCG, three legal subzones now exist: Canelli, Strevi, and Santa Vittoria d'Alba. All three subzones only produce Moscato d'Asti. Maximum pressure for Moscato d'Asti has been raised to 2 atmospheres. Moscato d'Asti late harvest (Vendemmia Tardiva) wines may be produced.
Italy’s fast growing number of DOCG’s can be a daunting task for anyone looking to conquer the knowledge of this great country and its wines. So take a deep breath and start breaking these down one glass at a time!
Saturday, January 21, 2012
Welcome to 2012 SARKUS fans!
It’s a New Year, and with that comes many new laws in the world of wine. So darlings, let us equip you with all the necessary tools and information one needs to be up to speed with the ever changing wine world…
We will begin with a small change in Germany:
VDP Erste Lage sweet wines may be released on May 1 of the year following the harvest.
Grosses Gewächs dry whites are not released until September 1.
What the hell does that mean and why should I care?! (you might have just said to yourself) Here’s a quick break down:
The VDP (Verband Deutscher Prädikatsweingüter, the Association of German Prädikat Wine Estates) endeavors to ensure that wines bearing the names of Germany’s finest vineyard sites are distinguished by a clear profile.
Erste Lage translates to “top (vineyard) site”. Within the VDP classification, it can be translated as Grand Cru, referring to the premium status of a vineyard and its wine. The term does not indicate style.
Grosses Gewächs translates to “great growth”. Within the VDP classification, it indicates a dry wine of Erste Lage/Grand Cru status.
Erstes Gewächs literally translates to “first growth”. It is synonymous with Grosses Gewächs and used exclusively in the Rheingau.
As we all know, German wine laws and ratings can be a bit tricky to navigate. In trying to simplify their wine classifications, it seems they’ve made it more confusing than ever! The new changes to these classifications are simple enough though—just a basic adjustment to the release dates of these wines.
Stay tuned…we’ll be traveling to another country for more changes soon!
Tuesday, January 3, 2012
I begged Sara and Markus to let me guest blog, because I like their posts and because I have a message for the San Diegans who read them. Sara and Markus assented. But don’t worry; they’ll be back and blogging soon.
Here’s the message: drink local.
“WTH?” you ask. (That’s “what the heck,” because I’m trying to avoid outright profanity, even in online acronyms.) That’s right. Drink local! There are as many good reasons to drink local wine as to eat local food, maybe more.
A lot of you are trying to be locavores or at least locavorish. There are some good and familiar reasons to eat local. An incomplete list might include keeping small farmers in business, reducing the use of fossil fuels (although there’s some debate about that), eating produce that you can’t get from distant factory farms because it does not travel well (thereby increasing the variety in your diet), and getting food that is fresher and less processed because it does not have to travel.
The new farm-to-table restaurants in San Diego are a visible sign that people like to eat local. I love places like The Linkery, El Take It Easy, and Sea Rocket, not because I’m a strict locavore but because their insistence on local produce correlates with their insistence on using the best ingredients. Their aim is to make something authentic. Authenticity comes from ingredients obtained with care, processed with care, and served with care.
How do you get the same qualities in wine that you get with good, local produce -- more variety, less CO2 (except in sparklers), less processing, fresher?
A couple of experiences I had answered that question for me. First was what I call “the Ventoux phenomenon.” The French Cotes du Ventoux region is a lesser-known part of the Rhone region. When I lived in Paris in the 80s and 90s, you could buy Ventoux wines in the capital, but why would you? They were thin, reedy, and without character. Then, shortly after moving to San Diego, my wife and I were vacationing at the foot of Mont Ventoux for the scenery and the food and the mountains, not for the wine. It’s kind of funny that I cross the Atlantic to vacation in the Vaucluse part of Provence, because the countryside there looks and feels an awful lot like San Diego’s back country, beautiful and aromatic and great for viticulture. We were staying not far from a local wine co-op. We dropped in for a taste. It was just the local no-name Ventoux. The stuff was delicious -- tart, fruity, fresh, crunchy, like bursting berries on the palate. It came out of a hose attached to a thirty-foot-tall tank built into the walls of the co-op. And, get this: if you brought your own bottles, it cost 1 Euro per liter. That’s about a dollar a bottle.
“WTF!” I exclaimed, because that was before I swore off swearing. “Why don’t we get this stuff in San Diego or even Paris?!!?” I have since learned that there are a few good reasons, and I will get to them later.
The second experience that taught me to drink local was making my own wine. I have been doing so in San Diego for about eight years and went commercial under the label “Los Pilares” with last year’s vintage. Here’s the deal: smaller and localer makes it easier to be betterer. Repeat with more emphasis and even less grammar: more smaller and localer makes it more easier to be more betterer.
It’s simple really. It’s easier to grow, find, or buy small quantities of good grapes locally than large quantities of good grapes anywhere. It’s easier to pick them at just the right time and ripeness. It’s easier to get them to the winery in good condition. It’s easier to gently process them right away. It’s easier to keep an eye on the fermentation. It’s easier to take chances with your choice of varietals and wine-making techniques, because you aren’t putting a fortune at stake. And when such fresh fruit swiftly attended to, it’s easier to avoid having to “adjust” it with chemicals.
On the other hand, to make wine for export, you have to make it in large volumes (unless it’s Romanée-Conti), you have to treat it for stability (unless it’s Cornelissen’s Magma Rossa), you have to pick en masse and often by machine (unless it’s Pétrus, in which case you can afford to pick one berry at a time), and you have to target a mass market, often dumbing down the wine.
I have become convinced that I get wine grapes locally of a quality that famous commercial winemakers who charge $100 per bottle would kill for. But of course they would need tens or hundreds of tons of it, and that is just not available. My experience with high-quality local fruit is just one example of how easy it is to make good, interesting wine locally on a small scale in San Diego.
You, my neighbors, are really in luck, because San Diego is a grape-growing region. You can experience the benefits of local wine making without leaving home. Unfortunately, many (maybe even most) local wineries do not make any effort to exploit the benefits of being small and local. They do EXACTLY what they shouldn't. They limit themselves to “international” varietals like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinor Noir, and Chardonnay. They use industrial wine-making techniques. They import their fruit from the central coast and even places farther afield. Come on guys! Why even make wine in San Diego if you are trucking fruit in from the central coast?
So, I changed my mind; I have two messages for San Diego foodies, especially the locavores: (1) Drink local wine. (2) Encourage local wineries to use local fruit and to bring you all the benefits of being small and local.
Wednesday, October 19, 2011
Beaujolais has been largely misunderstood for many years, and that’s not without good reason. After all, it is hard to escape all the Beaujolais flimsy and whimsy that makes its way onto the shelves of countless American grocery stores, liquor marts and wine shops. Most of it is either Beaujolais Nouveau, or mass-produced Beaujolais that might as well be thought of as Beaujolais Nouveau that is made year round. Basically, the single driving force behind much of the Beaujolais that reaches the majority of American lips is M-O-N-E-Y. The goal, of course, being that behind the wine we drink is L-O-V-E.
So the goal of this blog post, dear readers, is to equip you with all the tools you need to go out and find yourself a delicious Beaujolais—one that not only reflects the best soils and traditions of the region, but one that is made with love. Here are your guidelines:
1. Say no to Nouveau
Beaujolais Nouveau is a marketing scheme pioneered by Geoges Duboeuf. It is a way to clear lots of ordinary wine at a good profit within weeks of harvest.
2. Say yes to Cru.
In the Northern section of Beaujolais, south of Mâcon, lie the 10 designated Crus of Beaujolais: St-Amour, Juliénas, Chénas, Moulin-`a-Vent, Fleurie, Chiroubles, Régnié, Morgon, Cote de Brouilly and Brouilly. These vineyards reflect specific terroir qualities and character; ranging from fragrant wines meant to be drunk young to brooding wines that are extremely age-worthy.
3. Beaujolais-Villages is your friend.
It is almost always worth paying a little more for a Beaujolais-Villages wine to get more refinement and concentration. Note: only individual growers who bottle tend to use the names of the Beaujolais-Village communes. Hence, if you see a label indicating a commune, then it is probably a good wine to gamble on.
4. Stay out of the grocery store.
The chances of being able to find nice drinking Beaujolais at Safeway or Alberstson’s are slim. Most of the big, corporate chains are going to have stacks of mass-produced, cheap brands that are not focused on quality. When shopping for Beaujolais, I suggest sticking to wine shops and specialty groceries.
Sticking to these guidelines won’t necessarily guarantee you an immediate, fantastic Beaujolais experience, but it should help you move in that direction. Good luck.
Wednesday, August 10, 2011
As the story goes, Judy Garland was groomed by her mother to become the ultimate performer. She would wake Judy in the morning with upper pills to make her extra alert for her day of auditions and performances. At night, she gave Judy a dose of downers to help calm her and sleep.
I’ve recently been developing a coffee shop presence for a soon-to-be breakfast cafe in the Bankers Hill neighborhood of San Diego. While in the build-out process of the actual kitchen, we are running as a coffee and smoothie shop, which is allowing us to do grass roots marketing to the locals and build interest in our upcoming spot. That being said, I am working 14+ hour days, 7 days a week.
My routine goes something like this:
I wake up and by 10a.m., I’ve usually consumed anywhere from 4 - 8 espresso shots; testing the pull, making sure the grind is just right to provide our customers with the best possible coffee experience. Throughout the work day, I will tack another 2 - 3 cups of various caffeine concoctions onto the roster as I test my skills. There’s iced coffee, which I need to cold-brew to restrain the bitterness. Or, there’s capturing the perfect foam of a rich and velvety latte. And, of course, there’s always honing the art of a good espresso pour. All of it is so delicious and invigorating that I just can’t help myself. Plus, I need the practice!
After a long day of drinking copious amounts of coffee at work, I come home to dinner and find myself yearning for the wind-down. Or perhaps I should say wine-down? That’s when I dig through my stash of wine and look for the perfect bottle to end the day with. Usually, I try to pair it with whatever Jim is whipping up for dinner, but sometimes it’s just something I have my heart set on---like a crisp Sancerre.
Yesterday, Sara stopped in the shop to taste me on a few wines and she caught me, literally, bouncing off the walls from my caffeine high. Mid-bust, I quick-wittedly shouted out to her, “I’m the modern day Judy Garland!!” We both proceeded to crack up—partially because it’s hilarious, but mostly because it’s true!! I amp myself up in the morning with caffeine to be at my customer service peak and then I wind myself down every night with a few glasses (who am I kidding, usually a bottle) of wine to get some sleep. I know that both coffee and wine have natural health benefits for us, but I’m getting the distinct feeling that there’s no “benefit” in all of this for me. Eek. Hopefully the café will open soon enough so I can bring my Judy Garland impersonation to an end….